Zack Wheeler’s Push to be the Phillies Second ‘Ace’ Starts Today

Philadelphia Phillies Zack Wheeler
TAMPA, FL – MARCH 07: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) delivers a pitch during the MLB Spring Training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees on March 7, 2021 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

For the most part, Philadelphia Phillies’ ace Aaron Nola was dominant on opening day. In his fourth straight season-opening nod, he pitched 6.2 fantastic innings. It was until Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run moon shot on Nola’s lone mistake on the day that got the right-hander pulled. The Phillies’ bullpen ended up keeping the Braves scoreless after that in the 3-2 win in extras. Now today, Zack Wheeler gets the nod for the Phillies.

In another afternoon matchup, Wheeler will face off against the Atlanta Braves in the second game of the season. First pitch is slated for 4:05 in Philadelphia, with coverage beginning at 3:30 on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Phillies are +101 Moneyline underdogs with the over/under set at eight runs.

Starting Pitchers:


Zack Wheeler

For his career, Wheeler has performed well against the Braves. Prior to signing with the Phillies, the right-hander started off his career strong against Atlanta. In 2013 and 2014, his ERA against Atlanta was under three, with 47 strikeouts in eight games. However, after missing two years with elbow injuries, Wheeler slowed down in general, and especially against the division rival. After returning to the Mets’ rotation in 2018 and 2019, he put up an inflated 4.26 and 6.26 ERA in those seasons, respectfully.

Following those seasons, Wheeler signed with the Phillies. Last season, he seemed to have returned to old form against Atlanta, having a 2.13 ERA in two starts during the shortened season. In those two games, he struck out 11 batters while only walking one in 12.2 total innings. The Phillies will need Wheeler to maintain this form against Atlanta this afternoon if they want to start their season 2-0.


Charlie Morton

A familiar face will return to Philadelphia, as the newest member of the Braves pitching staff takes the mound. Charlie Morton, who pitched four games for Philadelphia in 2016, will start for Atlanta in game two. Morton has had a solid MLB career, however, not much success against the Phillies.

In his career, he’s started seven total games against Philadelphia. Withinthose games, the Phillies’ bats have been active, getting Morton’s ERA against them to 6.17. In those games, he’s only lasted an average of five innings (35 innings pitched in seven starts). Since the Phillies’ bats tend to get opposing pitchers out of games early, this is good news for Philadelphia.

Storyline to Watch:

The Phillies’ Bats

In game one, the Phillies got to the Braves early. Andrew McCutchen singled on the first pitch of the game. Philadelphia followed this up by scoring a run in the first inning, then another in the third inning. They worked Max Fried’s pitch counts and got him out of the game after five innings.

Also, mentioned above, the Phillies get to opposing pitchers early. Since Joe Girardi has taken over the managerial spot, the red pinstripes have learned to work counts. On the flip side, Charlie Morton has a history of getting knocked out of games early against Philadelphia. The Phillies bats will have to continue their trend of getting to pitchers early and make the Braves bullpen win this game.

Last season, the Phillies were ninth in the league in team batting average, accumulating 500 hits in those 60 games. Their 5.10 runs per game were tied for fifth in the entire MLB. With a nearly identical lineup to last year, let’s see if their bats can continue this trend and get some runs on the board early and often this afternoon.

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire